Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Seaton Choral Society is moving to Seaton Town Hall for this year’s Christmas concert, which promises to be a joyful launch into the festive season .
Peter Milmer, its musical director, has planned a thoroughly Christmassy programme, which will include a sparkling collection of carols, excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, and the short but electrifying Christmas piece In Terra Pax by Gerlald Finzi.
Dr Milmer has persuaded 24 hand-picked instrumentalists to assemble for the event.
In Terra Pax requires this number of players, and some of the greatest choruses and solos from Handel’s Messiah will benefit from the colour and power available from such an array of instruments.
And Messiah, one of the greatest of all choral works, will form the backbone of the programme.
The concert will begin with a group of carols, including some of the best-known of old, such as In the Bleak Midwinter and some more recent but extremely popular ones.
These have been specially arranged with orchestral accompaniment by Peter Milmer – a real luxury for singers and players alike to have a built-in composer and orchestrator at their beck and call !
It was during the 1730s that Handel turned to writing oratorios to English texts on biblical subjects.
Three of them were so popular when performed at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford that undergraduates were reputed to have sold their furniture to buy tickets!
The trend towards English-language productions continued, and in July 1741 Handel’s librettist, Charles Jennens, sent him a new text: “I hope Handel will lay out his whole Genius & Skill upon it “ (he wrote to a friend) “as the Subject excels every other subject. The subject is ‘Messiah’”.
The words of Messiah are taken from the King James Version of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer.
Perhaps today’s tendency to jettison both of these in favour of a modern vocabulary gives these seldom-heard passages an even greater power to move us; especially when set with such ardour by a towering musical genius who was also a generous and compassionate human being..
After the interval comes In Terrra Pax by Gerald Finzi.
In a letter to Ralph Vaughan Williams Finzi described how this late composition had been inspired many years previously.
He remembered walking at night on Christmas eve to the church on Chosen Hill, in Gloucestershire, and hearing the midnight bells ringing across the valley. Peter Milmer said: “The wonderful orchestration and setting within the English countryside allows one to imagine the scene occurring in a local Devon Valley.
“It is a composition of great beauty which for me defines the spirit of Christmas.
Finzi’s magical setting of the song of the angels leaves us spellbound; it dies with the words ‘And on earth peace, goodwill towards men.’ The scene is set for us to return to Handel: the wandering sheep, The Trumpet shall Sound and the Hallelujah Chorus.
The society is thrilled to be welcoming soprano Susie Milmer to perform with them for the first time.
She and Peter are celebrating the very recent the arrival of their second child – a happy event which did of course prompt our title for the evening - A Child is Born!
With her will be tenor Leslie Baker (the society’s musical director until he handed over to Peter last year) and baritone David Fouracre - both well-known for their consistently fine singing in a wealth of guises over many years. – a really splendid line-up.
Do not on any account miss it !
It takes place at Seaton Town Hall on Sunday, December 16, at 4pm
Tickets (£10) from Seaton Town Hall, 01297 625699 Under 18s and students free.